Mystery / Interesting Glass
Pieces of pressed glass from the Victorian period are now over 130years old. Collectors of this type of glass are lucky in that a lot of the glass is marked and there are a number of websites, publications and archives to aid them with their discoveries. But as with all types of collecting there are still a lot of items to be found that are, frankly, mysteries. Unmarked glass, glass whose use may be unknown, undiscovered facts about some of the factories producing the glass or just unusual pieces of glass. I have put together a few items that may be of interest.
The swan vase on the left is unmarked and is different to the Queensware version on the right. (click thumbnails for larger images)
Most of the swans you see are like the Queensware version, even the version made in carnival glass from the 1920's onwards is from the same, older mould.
This pink version is different, there are no gaps between the body of the vase and the neck and feet of the swans, the overall design is not so well defined and there is no Sowerby mark. The pink colour suggests it was probably made later than the originals, perhaps in the 1930's? Cyril Manleys book, Decorative Victorian Glass (page 104), shows a similar pink swan vase.
Is this a piece of Sowerby glass or a copy from another manufacturer?
Unusual sugar and cream in jet glass. Both are unmarked but bear a striking resemblance to Sowerby pattern number 1350. The difference is the size. The black items are 90mm tall whereas the pattern 1350 items are 60mm tall. I have included pictures of pattern 1350 in Queensware for size comparison. The background behind the peacocks in the decoration is stippled but apart from that the decoration is very similar. I assume these are Sowerby, the moulding and pressing is very good, but I have never seen this pattern before.
More of an observation than a mystery. Most of Sowerby's output was pressed/mould blown glass but between 1877 and 1883 they produced a line of hand blown Venetian type glass.
Shown here are two Sowerby Venetian jugs. Both are the same size and have the same smooth ground pontil. The jug on the left has a thick blue rim and a curl
on the bottom of the handle as shown in the 1880 pattern book page 14. But there are distinct differences between the two jugs. The green glass is different, the
jug on the right is more yellow in colour and reacts to UV light, the left jug with the 'looped' handle does not react, suggesting a different mix of glass.
The blue rims are different, the jug on the right has a rim that is darker and thinner. The most obvious difference is the way the handles are attached.
The fourth picture shows a Venetian footed flask with the same handle.
I believe they are both Sowerby Venetian, I have seen a couple of the 'looped' handle pieces with broken loops, so perhaps the design was changed. More to follow.
A large Cobalt/Bristol Blue coloured jug which is possibly by Sowerby. I have seen Sowerby pressed items in a similar colour. British Glass 1800-1914 by Charles R. Hajdamach
shows a similar jug (pg 256, Plate 23), which is 'possibly' Sowerby. The jug has a translucent white rim and is 195mm tall, size is shown against a 130mm Venetian jug in picture 2.
Very similar in design to the Sowerby Venetian jugs, but this jug does not have a ground smooth pontil.
Is this jug by Sowerby?
Most of the figures depicted on Sowerby Nursery Rhyme pieces are based on designs by Walter Crane. Illustrations can be found in 'The Baby's Opera', 'An Alphabet of Old Friends' or
'The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book' but there are a couple of designs that have not been attributed.
A spill vase with Cross Patch is from 'An Alphabet of Old Friends' on the WXYZ page:
Draw the latch,
Sit by the fire and spin:
Take a cup
And drink it up,
Then call the neighbours in.
You can just see the 'neighbours' at the window on the spill vase.
The other side of the vase has two old ladies with sunflowers in the background. One looks like a witch with a staff and snakes in her hat, the other with a walking stick and pebble glasses. It looks like a Crane drawing and I have been trying to find out where it comes from for some time. I have finally found it!
The drawing is by Crane and is in Jack and the Beanstalk (illustrated by Walter Crane) London: George Routledge and Sons, 1875. Please see the picture above.
Another, so far, unknown illustration can be found on this Sowerby spill vase. It depicts a shepherd with a crook on one side and a soldier? with a pike on the other. This seems to be generally known as a 'Good Shepherd' vase, but the illustrations are still to be attributed.
Not my usual area of collecting but, two things close to my heart, I had to buy it. Probably made in the thousands but rare now.
The mug has a Sowerby trade mark on the bottom and a VR and crown with a Weights and Measures mark of 323 for Gateshead.
At 16 cm tall, the mug is heavy, 1Kg (just over 2lb 5oz) empty and 1.6KG (just over 3lg 8oz) full, so a large lump of glass.
Mugs are illustrated in Sowerby Pattern Books XI of 1885 and XV of 1895, one pictured is similar but has a slightly different handle,
so I suggest with the VR mark this one was made sometime between 1885 and 1901.
Interestingly both catalogues list the mugs as "seidels", which searching on Google is an old word for 'a large glass for beer".
More interesting details on this website: A Beer Glass Collector
Cheers, mines a pint.
Small Sowerby salt/vase (8cm long). Registration mark for date 13th July 1880. Appears in 1882 catalogue, page 10, pattern 1486.
The glass is an unusual dark amber. Looking hard at the piece it
looks as if it has been built up in layers. I am fairly certain there
are flakes of glass in the base, it is not like the swirls you see in
malachite pieces. It looks like it has been built up with a layer of the
amber glass at the bottom to fill the feet, followed by a layer of
'flakes' of glass in different shades of amber, then another layer of clear amber with a couple of
pieces of white thrown in before the article was finally pressed. The
white streaks are in the top layer and apart from a couple of these
streaks in the edges of the glass all of the tortoiseshell effect is
confined to the base.
Pure speculation on my part, but not very far off the process of layering glass with mica to create their 'Nugget' glass pieces, although these were mould blown not pressed. Both of these methods would have taken more time and effort on the part of the glassmakers.
Can you add layers in this way before pressing? Have a look at the photos, see what you think.
The front cover of the Sowerby 1882 catalogue refers to New Tortoise Shell Ware. The only reference I can find that refers to tortoiseshell is in Cottle, (pg79) where at an exhibition held in Manchester in 1882 the reporter states:
'A very remarkable section of the exhibits was that occupied by articles in imitation of tortoiseshell and there are only one or two sets of specimens in the room that more clearly show what the new system of combining colours can do. A set of bowls and cups is made of the new interleaved glass and it is only when they are closely handled that the visitor can say they are not really tortoiseshell'
'The operations connected with the perfecting of the tortoiseshell glass occupied a period of seven months and in one week the meltings of metal made in the experiments were 81 in number.'
So the glass was 'interleaved', unfortunately it does not say if it was pressed in a mould or hand manipulated.
Is this Sowerby tortoiseshell? I have not seen another piece like it. Anyone else?
There is now a topic on the Glass Message Board about this piece: 'GMB - Sowerby Tortoiseshell Glass'
Another unusual piece of Sowerby glass which I think may have been made using patent number 2433
Diameter 13cm, height 5cm, illustrated in Sowerby pattern book XI 1885 Page 11 pattern number 1035
Page 11 has heading of: BUTTERS MIDDLES & c FOR PLATERS, SHEET FOR PLATERS, presumably this is a dish for butter?
The outside ribs of the dish are blue translucent glass moulded onto the outside of the clear glass. The blue decoration is not stained or flashed.
The bottom (inside) of the dish is marked SOWERBY'S PATENT
Is the patent referred to "Patent No. 2433 of 15 September 1871 for Ornamenting pressed glass with designs in glass of a different colour"? This was the first patent registered by John George Sowerby after entering the firm in 1871.
The patent has been discussed on the Glass Message Board: 'A Patent for adding separate coloured glass ornamentation onto pressed glass'
Patent 2433 text:
The outer surfaces of vases and other articles made of pressed glass are ornamented with designs in glass of a different colour to that forming the body of the article. The ornament is formed in a suitable mould B having a counter balanced false bottom C and a plunger A; the plunger and mould have corresponding bevelled edges a, b, by which all surplus metal is cut off from the casting. Directly the ornament is pressed the section of the mould containing it is fitted in the mould in which the article is to be pressed, this mould being constructed to receive it in the requisite position for ornamenting the article. The fused metal is then run into the mould and pressed to shape, during which operation the ornament becomes incorporated with the surface of the article. The ornament may be made in sections in one or several moulds.
If I understand this correctly, the outside colour (blue) is pressed in a mould, this mould is then fitted inside another mould into which the clear glass is poured and moulded to produce the 2 coloured article.
Very few pieces have been identified so the the process may not have been a commercial success, being complicated and time consuming.
The original patent was registered in 1871, this item is in the 1885 catalogue (I cannot find it in other catalogues)
Did Sowerby try to revive the technique a few years after the original patent?
This technique produces a result very similar to a glass which has been 'stained'. Staining glass is described as: "A process of coating a piece of glass with a chemical whose true color is developed by heat. This is the least expensive way of coloring glass. The staining material is painted on the annealed [cooled] article with a brush wherever the decorative effect is desired. It is then fired on for permanency at which time the glass assumes the desired colour." The differences between cased, flashed and stained can be found 'HERE'
The process was frequently used by Bohemian and American glasshouses in the latter half of the century, often combined with acid-etched and engraved decoration.
Sowerby decorated items with cold painted silver, gold and coloured enamels which were not fired. Some items, specifically small opalescent pieces were decorated with an amber stain (see Cottle page 60)
The cover of pattern book IX, 1882, (see above) refers to 'DECORATED-OPAQUE-STAINED-BLANC DE LAIT.
Is the pattern book referring to items produced using a painted on stain or the effect produced by patent 2433?
Any information or comments on these items would be appreciated, please use the Contact form